Earl Boykins unlikely big scoring night Tuesday was another sign that this past off season wasn’t a total and complete failure for the Milwaukee Bucks. Boykins one big night alone makes him worth his veteran’s minimum salary and a couple other additions are beginning to pan out.
Chris Douglas-Roberts has shown signs of being very productive, and with the price tag of just a second round pick, looks to have been quite the steal for the Bucks. Keyon Dooling struggled and struggled more early on for Milwaukee, but has hit nearly 50% of his 3-point attempts this month (12-25 3FG) and has turned the ball over just eight times in his past 10 games. Each of them has demonstrated how they can be valuable to the Bucks this season going forward.
Things, they look pretty good. At least until one directs their attention to the summer’s big ticket acquisitions.
Drew Gooden and Corey Maggette.
Perhaps they shouldn’t be lumped together though, lest their hope for the future be confused. Because for as bad as things have been for these two this season, it would appear that their prospects for recovery are actually quite different.
Believe it or not, things have already started to come around for Drew Gooden. Milwaukee’s future starting power forward last summer has actually done quite well in the bench role he’s taken on more recently. He sat out Tuesday’s game, still battling plantar faciitis, but over his past four games, Gooden has averaged 12.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in 24 minutes per game off the bench. Earlier in the season, it wasn’t so much that Gooden wasn’t putting up okay numbers it was that the Bucks weren’t playing good basketball. Being a newcomer and having some fairly obviously destructive tendencies — his out of control takes to the basket being the most notable — Gooden often found himself to blame for Milwaukee’s problems.
But his solid play of late has been in harmony with his teammates. He’s been making a good percentage of his shots and he and his teammates seemed to have learned how to effectively play off of each other without the offense spurting and stalling as it did earlier this season. While the Bucks are just 6-14 in the games Gooden has played in, they have played significantly better of late. He was key in Milwaukee’s near upset in San Antonio and was one of the few Bucks that played well against the Jazz. The most difficult piece remaining in the “how to incorporate Drew Gooden” puzzle is finding a way for Gooden and Ersan Ilyasova to coexist successfully.
As I mentioned in Tuesday’s recap, in the seven games Gooden has not played, Ilyasova has averaged 13.4 points and seven rebounds per game. In the 20 games in which Gooden has played, those averages fall to 6.8 points and 4.9 rebounds. This all hardly seems like Gooden’s fault though. Ilyasova’s struggles with his confidence are something he’ll need to continue to fight as a young, developing player in the NBA.
Ilyasova’s confidence struggles are comical when paired with the thought of Corey Maggette. Confidence has never been an issue for Milwaukee’s small forward. Defense has though, for a long time. And it still is. Maggette was apparently concussed in Milwaukee’s recent game against the Utah Jazz, forcing him to leave the game, but his playing time likely wouldn’t have been much different the rest of that game anyway. After logging 30 minutes against the Heat in Milwaukee December 6, Maggette has seen his minutes fall off a cliff. In the five games he’s played in since, he’s played 16, 14, 7, 5 and finally 8 minutes before his injury. “Circumstances” were what led to his reduction according to Coach Skiles.
“He’s been, the last two or three games a little bit of a victim of circumstance,” Skiles said last Saturday. “The first unit hasn’t maybe played particularly well, but maybe only been down nine, and all of a sudden Corey comes in with the second group and all of a sudden we’re down 18-20. He scores the ball normally when he gets some extended minutes, but all the guys are interrelated in there. I’m not too worried about Corey, I feel if I can put him in the game he’ll score the ball for us.”
But it’s not difficult to see that Maggette is still struggling to play the kind of defense that keeps players on the court for the Bucks. In San Antonio he sandwiched a charging violation in between being posted up by a much smaller Richard Jefferson for an easy lay in and falling asleep and getting beat on a back door cut. In the past three games, Maggette has four turnovers, three fouls and two points. He’s still getting to the free throw line when he’s getting more minutes, but at what price? For nearly every free throw Maggette has been awarded of late, there’s been a charge or a long jump shot. His shooting percentage has fallen to a career low 38.6%, all the while his usage is at a career high 29.1%. A season like this is not exactly what the Bucks had in mind when they acquired him.
Will Maggette turn it around? Perhaps, but it won’t be easy. He’ll have to earn his way back on to the court defensively and play with his teammates on offense, rather than against them. Unlike Gooden, Maggette’s just as likely to find himself on the end of the bench for an entire game as he is on the court, so the process won’t be easy. But the season is long and the Bucks other off-season pickups have shown us that things can change quickly. Maggette could break out of his season long shooting slump and figure out where he’s supposed to be on the other end of the floor.
For now though, while Gooden seems to be figuring out how to succeed as a Buck, a concussion isn’t the only headache Maggette is dealing with.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).